The last few months has represented a transition in the UKs climate narrative following the UK general election on the 12th December 2019 and subsequent victory for the Conservative party with a 45% majority. Securing 365 seats in Parliament, they have the largest Conservative majority government since Margaret Thatcher. Many ‘safe’ Labour seats were lost due to the divide over Brexit between the parties, however many issues debated during the election will have more precedence in the coming months now we have signed to leave the European Union.
Despite the focus on Brexit, the political campaigns focused on green issues more than ever before. During the election, the Conservatives party highlighted its core climate change policies, such as maintaining it’s position on being net-zero by 2050. In comparison, most other major parties opted for a stronger stance, of net-zero by 2030. This reflects the Conservative Party being the least ambitious in it’s climate policies of all the major parties. For example, all major parties committed to planting at least 60 million trees a year or more, whereas the conservatives have only committed to planting 30 million trees a year. Furthermore, despite 80% of people supporting onshore wind and solar farms, they still showed reluctance to invest in these areas. Significantly, this election did begin a discourse on agricultural practices in the fight against Climate Change, with the green party being most ambitious in its farming policies, proposing a tax on meat and dairy products. In contrast, the conservatives proposed a Nature For Climate Fund that provides grants for farm-based environmental projects such as flood prevention or tree planting, putting farming on the agenda but not tackling the issues of carbon emissions from the meat industry.
Now the government has signed the Brexit Deal on the 31st of January, and with COP26 in Glasgow this year, a political space has opened for greater focus on Climate Change from the Conservative government. It has been agreed Brexit will not affect the UK’s Climate commitments put forward in the Paris Agreement under the EU, but it does not guarantee that in the five year review the UK will increase its commitments to the same extent the EU will at COP26. And over time, there is a fear we will become less ambitious relative to our continental neighbors. The government only recently dismissed Claire Perry O’Neill, the UN’s COP26 president, and given the role of organizing COP26 to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy whose interests are undermined by growth strategies and international trade.
However, in theory as the host of COP26, the government should demonstrate UK leadership and set high international standards for Climate Action. On the 30th of January the government re-introduced a revised version of the environmental bill that gives greater powers to local authorities to tackle fossil fuel emissions and re-call vehicles that don’t meet environmental standards. The bill also looks at creating an Office for Environmental Protection, which would be a hugely significant instrument for enshrining the protection of nature in environmental law. This shows that despite being the least ambitious political party with regards to climate change, there is hope that the conservative government will listen to the calls of UK citizens, set high standards at COP26, and get the environmental bill passed into UK legislation. It is important to note that if the UK doesn’t raise its net-zero target, this doesn’t mean in reality the UK won’t meet net-zero before 2050, as many major cities have made their own commitments to net-zero by 2030, such as London and Bristol. But a strong stance from government is required for a unified approach across the whole country.
Activity Rating: * Needs Urgent Improvements
Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below.
Dear Theresa Villiers,
I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to inform you that after reviewing the Conservative governments environmental targets proposed during the election, and the events that have taken place thereafter, the conservative government is failing to match the ambition of its political opponents with regards to climate action.
The Conservatives proposed a net-zero strategy for 2050, when the UN has stated to inhibit the effects of global temperature rise, we must reach net-zero by 2030. Where the Labour Party, Green party and others have committed to this 2030 approach, the conservatives have not listened to these recommendations are persisting on a 2050 deadline. This is not fast enough for the pace of change we need. There should also be a significant reevaluation of the number of trees planted per year to mitigate carbon emissions, with at least 60 million trees being planted a year.
I commend the environmental bill as a strong starting point for the UK. The office of Environmental Protection will be especially significant in creating long-lasting positive change. And although the focus on local authorities in taking action is welcomed, it needs to be supported by a greater drive from the government and national targets. This last year has seen unprecedented levels of grassroots activism and huge numbers of participation in climate coalitions, collectively creating a global acceptance of Climate Change and the need for urgent action to address the Climate Emergency. The government should not be the last body to align to these principles, it should be at the forefront.
COP26 is a great opportunity to reevaluate the Conservative stance, the UK targets for Climate action, and green growth strategies starting with the environmental bill but moving faster and pushing further. The UK can be an international leader in finding solutions to this global crisis, if we chose to be so.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these actions,
Contact Details for Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
Name: Theresa Villiers
Address: 163 High Street, Barnet, EN5 5SU
Telephone: 020 8449 7345
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager: Zara Holden